News June 2015

10 June 2015

EPRs

Nuclear safety inspectors have found crucial faults in the cooling system of France’s flagship new-generation nuclear power plant on the Channel coast, exposing it to the risk of meltdown. The third-generation European Pressurised Reactor currently under construction in Flamanville is the same model that Britain plans to use for two new plants at Hinkley Point in Somerset. State-controlled nuclear giant Areva is responsible for the design and construction. France’s nuclear safety watchdog found “multiple” malfunctioning valves in the Flamanville EPR that could cause its meltdown, in a similar scenario to the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the US. The inspectors listed the faults in a damning presentation obtained by Mediapart, the investigative French website.

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Posted: 10 June 2015

9 June 2015

Flamanville

[Machine translation] A confidential report from IRSN reveals serious dysfunctions important parts of the EPR at Flamanville (Manche). This document, which Mediapart published in full, advanced “multiple failure modes serious consequences” on safety valves. These new anomalies are in addition to manufacturing defects of the reactor vessel. The future of the construction of the EPR at Flamanville nightmare for Areva. A few weeks after the revelation of serious problems on the tank bottom of the future nuclear reactor, a confidential report of the Institute of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) reveals new and serious malfunctions very sensitive parts of the EPR. This document, which was able to obtain Mediapart warns on “multiple failure modes serious consequences” on safety valves, equipment used to depressurize the reactor.

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Posted: 9 June 2015

8 June 2015

Nuclear Weapons

Britain could once again host US nuclear missiles amid growing tensions with Russia, Philip Hammond indicated yesterday. The Foreign Secretary said the Government ‘would look at the case’ for cruise missiles to be sited in the UK. He added that Britain needed to send ‘clear signals’ to Vladimir Putin amid ‘worrying signs’ of increased military activity by Russian forces – including the installation of missiles in Kaliningrad, an enclave on the Baltic Sea.

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Posted: 8 June 2015

7 June 2015

Hinkley

[Machine Translation] Greenpeace Energy: Germany must join lawsuits against Hinkley Point C. The Hinkley Point C nuclear power plants will go on stream in 2023. The British government wants to subsidize the reactor project in the South West of England with high billions from the state budget. In an open letter to the competent Federal Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) , the Energy Cooperative Calls on the Federal Republic to join the plaintiffs against the controversial billion-aid for the British nuclear power plant project Hinkley Point C. At the same time Greenpeace Energy calls immediately during the hands-on campaign NO POINT also the consumers in Germany to on to move the federal government protest by mail to legal action against the nuclear aid.

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Posted: 7 June 2015

6 June 2015

New Nukes

Britain’s new nuclear power stations and other energy infrastructure projects must be designed to look beautiful to garner essential public support, the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, has said. The country is set for a complete overhaul of its energy infrastructure in the next decade as new green sources of electricity such as nuclear, wind and solar power stations replace polluting coal and gas plants. Britain’s current nuclear power stations, which are all located at coastal sites, are notorious for their ugly functionality. “People in general want public structures to look good, as well as being functional. It’s not a trivial thing, when you have a big infrastructure project that you put time, effort and money into,” Ms Rudd said.

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Posted: 6 June 2015

5 June 2015

Hinkley

Energy firm EDF has refused to comment on speculation it would withdraw from the £25billion project to build a new nuclear power station in Somerset if Britain was to leave the European Union. The Company said it was still not ready yet to commit to the project. The French-owned energy firm said it had a policy not to comment either way on a “Brexit”. Leading business analyst Matthew Lee, a managing partner at West accountants Bishop Fleming, said “EDF, which may well build Hinkley C is an EU business about to invest heavily into the UK – if we withdraw I suspect that their investment decision may be different. We live in a global economy and while there are aspects about the EU that we may not always like I believe that we would ultimately suffer as a regional economy if we decided to withdraw”. An EDF spokesman said there was no further update on whether the firm was closer to a position to sign the final deal to start building the Hinkley C reactor near Bridgwater. Back in April, it revealed it had finished all the preparatory work it could do to the site, and was now having to lay off as many as 300 workers, because the next step would be to start building work. EDF is still in negotiations with its financial backers and has not yet made its “final investment decision” on whether the reactor will be built.

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Posted: 5 June 2015

4 June 2015

Areva & EDF

The French government has ordered nuclear groups Areva and EDF to merge their reactor businesses into a joint venture controlled by EDF, as part of a broad restructuring to revive the fortunes of a once-proud national industry. Francois Hollande, the French president, announced that the design, project management and marketing of new reactors by both companies will be put into one dedicated company called Areva NP, controlled by EDF. The government, which controls more than 80 per cent of both companies, will also inject new capital “as necessary” in Areva, which has been the subject of crisis talks since it reported a 4.8bn euro loss last year. “This merger will allow for an ambitious export policy and the future renewal of France’s nuclear power plants,” the government said. The decision is largely a victory for the management of EDF, which had in recent weeks pitched for a takeover of Areva NP, which employs about 19,000 people out of a total 44,000 at the group. Areva management had pushed for a more limited deal, which would have seen EDF simply recruit 1,200 Areva engineers and kept Areva intact. But this would have been more expensive for the government. The announcement on Wednesday only presents an outline of the eventual agreement, however. Both sides still need to negotiate on price, the size of the capital raising and also guarantees over Finland. “This meeting is not conclusive”, said government spokesman. EDF is due to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in southwest England, based on the same design as the Olkiluoto plant. Talks are continuing between EDF and potential partners on the project.

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Posted: 4 June 2015

3 June 2015

Hunterston

One of the nuclear reactors at Hunterston B power station has been shut down due to excess sea weed. The marine algae was clogging the water intake system, which uses sea water to cool down the two reactors at the Ayrshire plant. Operator EDF Energy said the reactor was shut down on Monday night before any problems arose as a safety precaution. The other reactor is operating at a reduced capacity while tests are carried out.

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Posted: 3 June 2015

Urgent! Write now to your MP to urge them to stop the Government’s windfarm massacre!

As you have no doubt seen in the press, the Government has announced that it is pressing ahead with plans to stop incentives being paid to onshore wind. The cutting edge of the current threat is to ‘close’ the Renewables Obligation (RO) to new windfarms from April 2016. Currently many windfarms are planned to be installed in the final year of incentives being available for wind power (2016-2017), so this action will waste a lot of cheap low carbon energy. RenewableUK, the trade body representing wind power, has threatened to take legal action against the Government over this issue. We can support them by writing to our MPs to urge the Government not to scrap incentives for onshore wind.

We need to write to our MPs to stress how important it is to keep funding onshore wind not just until 2017 under the RO but also in the longer term through the continued issue of what are called long term power purchase agreements (PPAs). These include so-called ‘contracts for difference’ (CfDs) being issued under Electricity Market reform (which replaces the RO). Renewable energy sources need PPAs. Unlike fossil fuels, most of the costs of the the schemes come when they are installed, meaning that investors need long term guarantees about prices of sales of electricity produced.

It is truly an absurd sight seeing DECC Secretary Amber Rudd swanning off to Paris to pronounce about how much our Government is keen on reducing carbon emissions when at home it is effectively banning new onshore windfarms. Ironically they are one of the few of its energy policies that is actually being implemented in pursuit of its much proclaimed ‘decarbonisation’ strategy. The Government is failing to get either carbon capture and storage (CCS) or nuclear power stations built. So what is it doing? Why, making a priority of stopping a major solution – onshore windfarms – that are most easily deployed! Currently there are over 5GW of onshore windfarms, that is over 3 per cent of UK electricity generation, that has planning consent but will not be built if incentives are cut off for onshore windfarms from 2016.

Onshore windfarms are the cheapest widely available low carbon energy source. It is important to stress this. It is not widely reported, but the way the RO is structured now means that windfarm operators will get no more than around £80 per MWh for 20 years if they set up in April 2016, and after that just the wholesale electricity price (currently under £50 per MWh) afterwards. Compare this with what is now worth around £94 per MWh for 35 years that is being offered to EDF for Hinkley C with a £10 billion loan guarantee thrown in!

So, it is very important that windfarm supporters urgently write to their MPs to try to stop this piece of ecological vandalism.

Re-blogged from Dave Toke’s Green Energy Blog 1st June 2015

Posted: 2 June 2015

2 June 2015

Nuclear Industry

Clouds over the French nuclear industry: “I am convinced that the nuclear industry has a future, that it is a strength of our country.” The fact that Manuel Valls, the prime minister, had to make such a statement in the National Assembly in Paris two weeks ago is a dramatic indication of the depths of the problems the nuclear sector in France is facing. Last month, Pierre-Franck Chevet, the head of the French nuclear safety agency, announced a full-scale inquiry into problems with the quality of the reactor vessel designed for use at Flamanville and built in Burgundy by the Creusot Forge engineering firm that is a key subsidiary of Areva. It remains unclear when the company knew about the problem and how long it took them to tell the French government or any of the other governments around the world (including the Chinese and the British) who are in the process of buying nuclear reactors of the same design. Last week it was announced that EDF would bid 2.2bn euros for Areva’s nuclear reactor business. Areva is in effect broke and any deal with EDF will have to include some prior write off of debts and some acceptance by the French government of any continuing liabilities – not least in Finland. There are also personal animosities – the two companies have been at daggers drawn for years, and it is hard to see a happy marriage in prospect. Meanwhile, the vultures are circling, ready to pick the flesh off the bones. Three Chinese companies are reported to want to be financial investors in the remainder of Areva’s business – which specialises in mining and refining uranium, supplying fuel to nuclear operators, and managing decommissioning and waste disposal. Each is said to want just 10 per cent of the company but the idea that they would not act as a single agent of China Inc defies credibility. China wants to match Russia as an industrial power in the nuclear sector worldwide and has the financial resources to force its way in and to build a global presence. At stake in all this is not just the fate of one company and its workforce, but also the future of a major European industry. For the French nuclear secto r the action required goes well beyond the forced merger of EDF and Areva. Three steps are essential if the sector is to thrive: First, tell the whole truth. To retain trust the companies must be absolutely transparent about the things that have gone wrong. The internal assessments of the problems at Flamanville and Olkiluoto should be published in full. Second, when in trouble, stop digging. The EPR reactor whose problems are at the heart of the current crisis is an expensive failure. It has to be written off and replaced by a new generation of smaller, less complex reactors that can be built on time and on budget. To survive, the nuclear sector has to find reactors that can deliver power competitive in a world of relatively low energy prices. Third, the French government has to take its hands off the companies. At the moment the state own 87 per cent of Areva and 84.5 per cent of EDF. The EPR has been a problem compounded by weak governance and an unwillingness to face up to reality. But other reactors work and can be built. The situation is very difficult, but does not have to be fatal.

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Posted: 2 June 2015